The weather makes (and breaks) the walking experience in New Zealand, and the huge volcano of Taranaki on the west coast of the North Island is particularly susceptible to changeable weather. As warm, moisture-laden air rolls in from the sea and hits the volcano, it gets pushed up into the colder high-altitude air and forms clouds, which then spend days emptying buckets of water over the heads of unsuspecting trampers. I should know; it happened to me.
But it's worth the gamble to catch a glimpse of Taranaki, because it's a fantastic sight when it pokes out of the clouds. Walking around the base of such an immense beast is thrilling even when it's hidden from view; somehow you just know it's there, looming over you, and the chance to climb to the summit after the circuit should not be missed.
Be warned, though, that the walking is hard. It might not sound too difficult to wander round the edges of a cone-shaped mountain, but volcanoes are rarely regular. Long fingers of hardened lava form barriers to the circuit walker, and the path goes up and down so much that it's exhausting. In good weather the view from the flanks of Taranaki is never tiring – the volcano is in the middle of a circular bump that just out of the coast, so the panorama to the north, west and south leads to the sparkling ocean in the distance – but prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
If you're looking for great volcano walking in northern New Zealand then Tongariro is arguably better, but if you enjoy hacking through rainforest along the flanks of monstrous mountains, then the Taranaki Around the Mountain Circuit is the one for you.
The traditional way to tackle the Around the Mountain walk at Taranaki is to start and end at East Egmont, taking four days to do the circuit; this leaves enough time to include the summit walk on the last day, if you've got enough energy left. Here's the route I took:
|1||East Egmont to Lake Dive||-|
|2||Lake Dive to Waiaua Gorge||-|
|3||Waiaua Gorge to Holly Hut||-|
|4||Holly Hut to East Egmont via the Summit||-|
I'm afraid I don't have the distances to hand as the maps aren't available to me right now, but there's plenty of documentation available from the Department of Conservation (DOC).